Friday, May 16, 2014

The Man on the Rock in the Sea

Today is the feast of St. Brendan the Navigator. So here's a brief retelling of an episode from the legends of his life; you can find the most common version in the Irish classic, The Voyage of St. Brendan.

As St. Brendan and his mariners sailed southward in their search for Paradise, St. Brendan saw a very thick cloud. At the center of the cloud there was something in the shape of a man. Some of the brethren though tit a bird, others a bot, but St. Brendan commanded them to be silent and to steer for the place. There they found a man on a rough rock. All around him the waves were frozen.

"Who are you?" asked St. Brendan. "For what crime were you abandoned here?"

"My name," said the man, "is Judas Iscariot. I am placed here not for my crime but for mercy. My crime abandons me to terrible torment; but through the forbearance of the Redeemer I am allowed this cool respite, in honor of His Resurrection. I know it every Lord's Day from first vespers to second, and every Christmastide from Christmas to Epiphany, and the feasts of the Purification and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. In comparison with my punishment in the fires of Hell, this seems to me to be a paradise. And therefore I beg of you to intercede with the Lord Jesus that I may remain here in my customary respite, for I fear the demons, drawn here by you, will come to torment me or drag me off to my punishment."

Then St. Brendan replied, "The will of the Lord should be done. You will not be taken before your time."

As evening came on, demons began to gather around the rock in the sea, and they began to shout for St. Brendan to depart and not to protect the traitor.

St. Brendan replied, "This man is not under my protection, but he has been given an allotted time by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself."

The demons cried out, "How dare you invoke that name on behalf of the one who has betrayed him?" But St. Brendan commanded them in the name of the Lord that they should do no harm to Judas before his time was ended.

As dawn drew onward and the mariners of St. Brendan prepared to be underway, the demons shouted to the saint that Judas would receive double his punishment because of St. Brendan's interference.

Then St. Brendan said sternly, "You have no power take what God gives, and I command you in the name of the Lord that you are to punish him not one whit more than his allotted punishment."

"Are you the Lord of All that you should command such as we?" replied the demons.

"No," said St. Brendan, "but I am a servant under his authority; what I command in His name is done, and I am His servant in what He grants me."

The demons pursued St. Brendan with furious blasphemy until he was far away from Judas Iscariot; then with a rushing and howling like a tempest wind they carried off that miserable soul.


  1. Itinérante8:29 AM

    This is a sad story. I do not really understand it. Why did the demons carried off the soul when God gave him a bit of rest?

  2. Judas's time of rest had expired, hence why the mariners were preparing to leave.

  3. Itinérante9:19 AM

    Oh I see. Thank you. Now i understand a bit. St. Bernard is protecting the soul from demons while it was time for her to rest! That is very kind! But it is still sad though. Can we pray for Judas? To have more rest that is?

  4. Itinérante12:00 PM

    Oh and another thing : I tried to look up if Brandon is a variation for Brendan but with no results. If so then happy feast day Sir! In all cases I will say a prayer for you in that honour!

  5. branemrys12:44 PM

    They are indeed variations on the same name. Thanks for the good wishes!

  6. Enbrethiliel10:20 AM


    Judas's fate used to haunt me a lot each year around Holy Week. I made a conscious effort to stop thinking about him after a priest told me that thinking too much about Judas could be dangerous.

    Reading this story reminds me that that one thing I was so hung up on was the fact that Jesus and Judas had been friends. Not very good friends, perhaps, but enough for Jesus to have wanted to spare His betrayer some of the just punishment which the latter would have received in Hell. This legend from St. Brendan's life fits so beautifully into one hole left by tradition.

    Happy name day, Brandon! =)

  7. branemrys10:38 AM


    It certainly gives a different angle on Judas than Dante does!


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